CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 21 Nebraska

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2013 record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 in Big Ten (2nd in Legends Division)
2013 postseason: Gator Bowl vs. Georgia (24-19 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: Unranked/No. 25
Head coach: Bo Pelini (82-58 overall; 82-58 in 7 years at Nebraska)
Offensive coordinator: Tim Beck (7th season, 4th as offensive coordinator)
2013 offensive rankings: 19th rushing offense ( 215.69 ypg); 97th passing offense (196.7 ypg); 59th total offense (412.4 ypg); 48th scoring offense (31.9 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 8
Defensive coordinator: John Papuchis (7th season, 4th as defensive coordinator)
2013 defensive rankings: 54th rushing defense (156.08 ypg); 32nd passing defense (214.6 ypg); 39th total defense (370.7 ypg); 49th scoring defense (24.8 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 7 
Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
Stadium: Memorial Stadium (92,000; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 1999

THE GOOD
Nebraska is going to run the ball, perhaps better than any team in the Big Ten. Not only do the Huskers return Ameer Abdullah, but they also have Imani Cross and Terrell Newby. The three combined for over 2,400 rushing yards in 2013. When Nebraska does want to take to the air though, having Kenny Bell on the verge of rewriting the school record books is a nice luxury to have.

THE BAD
The ball control concerns have plagued Nebraska each of the past two seasons. Nebraska has lost 38 fumbles the last two seasons, which is incredible when you consider Nebraska has played 27 games in that span. That is almost one and a half fumbles lost per game, nevermind how many fumbles Nebraska has had but recovered.

THE UNKOWN
Nebraska may have position players on offense in pretty good shape, but the offensive line is hitting a reset button this fall. That does not mean it will be shaky, but it does suggest there is going to be some time needed before the unit really starts to gel. How much time will that take? The line will have some upperclassmen on the line but the experience is thin at best. It is worth having some concern about for Nebraska fans, but the Huskers have a pretty good track record when it comes to linemen. The faster the line can come together, the better for Nebraska, obviously. Games against Miami and Michigan State will be difficult hurdles if the offensive line is not together.

MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Michigan State
Nebraska is going to get what could be an entertaining home game against Miami form the ACC in September, but the true measuring stick for the Huskers will come in the first weekend of October. That is when Nebraska heads to East Lansing to take on the defending Big Ten champions, Michigan State. The Huskers may very well return home with a loss in that game, but how they perform against that caliber of defense could be an indicator for what to expect for the rest of the season. After Michigan State the Huskers get a bye week to spend some time learning and reviewing what has worked and what has not to that point. The Michigan State game could give some positive signs for the second half of the season or it could set up what could be a rough two months ahead in Lincoln.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: RB Ameer Abdullah
This one is easy. Running back Ameer Abdullah is considered one of the best in the Big Ten (along with Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin) and the nation. Last year Abdullah led the Big Ten in rushing with 1,690 rushing yards but he entered the endzone just nine times. That could very well change a bit in 2014 as Abdullah takes on even more of a workload, if you can believe that. With the quarterback situation in a bit of a transition, Abdullah should be counted on time and time again to lead the offense. Fortunately, this is something he should be able to handle more often than not.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Nevada names ‘Bama transfer as starting QB, but doesn’t say he’ll start opener

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David Cornwell, an Alabama transfer, will be Nevada’s starting quarterback — until he isn’t.

Wolf Pack head coach Jay Norvell said at Pac-12 media days that Cornwell will enter fall camp, which begins Monday, as the starter but that doesn’t mean Cornwell will actually start Nevada’s opener at Northwestern.

“David’s the starting quarterback right now and he’ll have to compete and earn that spot throughout training camp and if there’s reason for him not to be (the starting quarterback) we’ll address,” Norvell said, via the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Until we see that, we won’t make any changes at that position.”

A junior from Jones, Okla., Cornwell did not throw a pass with the Crimson Tide. He started Nevada’s spring game and completed 22-of-33 throws for 302 yards with two touchdowns.

“David fits those qualities and demonstrated those strengths the best out of all of our quarterbacks in the spring, and that’s why he was the starting quarterback,” said Norvell. “And the way he played in the spring game gave us even more evidence of that.”

Cornwell’s competition for the starting spot will be incumbent Ty Gangi, also a junior. Gangi appeared in 10 games last season, nailing 99-of-172 throws for 1,301 yards with eight touchdowns against six interceptions whilst rushing 49 times for 217 yards and three scores.

 

After leaving New Mexico, WR Matt Quarells lands at Iowa

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Just prior to the start of summer camp, Iowa’s receiving corps has been unexpectedly bolstered.

Speaking at the Mountain West Conference’s version of media days, Bob Davie revealed that Matt Quarells has decided to leave his New Mexico football program.  Not only that, the Lobos head coach revealed the wide receiver’s destination — the Hawkeyes.

“He’s a great kid, and I hate to lose him,” Davie said according to the Albuquerque Journal. “But I think Iowa’s a good fit for him.”

A native of St. Louis, Quarells wanted to finish up his playing career closer to home, his now-former coach added.

As a graduate transfer, Quarells will be able to contribute in the Hawkeyes’ passing game this season.  Not only that, but the rising junior can play in 2018 as well as he has two years of eligibility remaining.

After catching two passes for 23 yards as a redshirt freshman in 2015, he caught 11 for 180 yards and a touchdown last season.  The lone score was a 62-yarder in the season-opening win over South Dakota.  He caught a career-high five passes two weeks later in a nine-point loss to Rutgers.

LOOK: Nebraska, adidas unveil uniforms honoring ’97 Cornhuskers team

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One of the greatest teams in the football program’s storied history is getting its sartorial due.

Nebraska and its apparel partner, adidas, announced Thursday a new alternate uniform that will pay homage to the 1997 Cornhuskers football team.  The uniforms will be worn for the Oct. 7 game against Wisconsin at Memorial Stadium.

From the release:

Centered around a one-to-one recreation of the mesh jerseys worn during the 1990’s, adidas designers were able to recreate the visual aesthetic and texture of the traditional numbers by utilizing a new framis screen-printing technique that also allows for flexibility and movement. Additional detailing for the retro look includes the classic white pants and the traditional white Cornhuskers helmet that features a classic red “N” logo on the sides and accented with player numbers featured in red the back of the helmet.

The new Primeknit Husker ‘97 alternative uniform is at the forefront of design and innovation, providing players the perfect blend of style and technology for elite performance. Made with a cutting-edge, proprietary yarn blend that increases durability and abrasion resistance, Primeknit is the premier compression uniform system, featuring the latest generation of adidas TECHFIT technology. Primeknit helps keep players cool and increases range of motion, giving athletes an unrivaled level of comfort and allowing them to perform at their highest levels. The jersey’s padlock system secures tension over the shoulder pads, while the bodymap fit adheres to the player, making it difficult for opponents to grab, hold or tackle.

The Husker ‘97 theme continues on the TECHFIT compression baselayer with the “Huskers” wordmark prominently place on the chest and accented with traditional stripes on the sleeves to help replicate the look that old school jerseys. Additionally, the theme carries onto the black adizero 5-Star 5.0 gloves, featuring a white oversized graphic of the “Huskers” moniker. The adizero 5-Star 5.0 gloves feature 4-way stretch mesh for compression fit and GripTack for consistent control in all weather conditions. To complete the homage, the team will don all black adidas adizero and FREAK cleats.

The 1997 Cornhuskers went 13-0, completing that undefeated national championship season with a 25-point win over No. 3 Tennessee.  Nebraska beat their 13 opponents that season by an average of 30 points per game.

Tha year was also Tom Osborne’s last as head coach.

QB brother of Joe Flacco transfers from Western Michigan to Rutgers

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That certainly didn’t take long.

Last week, reports surfaced that Tom Flacco, brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, was no longer a part of the Western Michigan football program.  Thursday, the Pardon My Take podcast was the first to report that Flacco is transferring to Rutgers. Nj.com, among others, subsequently confirmed the initial report.

The move, which hasn’t been confirmed by RU, serves as a homecoming for Flacco as the quarterback played his high school football in Voorhees, NJ.

Flacco will be forced to sit out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws.  Beginning with the 2018 season, he will then have two years of eligibility remaining.

A two-star 2015 signee, Flacco played in 13 games the past two seasons for the Broncos.  As a true freshman, he completed 10-of-12 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown while adding 266 yards and two scores on the ground.  Last season, he attempted just one pass — an incompletion — and rushed for 74 yards, which included a career-long 55-yarder.